Friday, October 5, 2007
In Minnesota v. Shriner, the Minnesota Court of Appeals came to the conclusion that the suspected presence of alcohol does not per se give the police the Constitutional authority to justify a warrantless blood draw. Shriner had crashed her vehicle into another vehicle head-on after crossing over into the wrong lane of traffic, and the police arrested her, took her to a hospital, and directed staff to draw her blood without her consent.
On appeal, Shriner conceded that there was probable cause for the police to seek the blood test, but she contended that the blood draw was improper without her consent or a warrant. The state contended that presence of alcohol in an individual, and its normal dissipation from the bloodstream, was per se an exigent circumstance justifying a warantless blood draw. As support, it cited cases such as State v. Bohling, 494 N.W.2d 399 (Wis. 1993).
Nonetheless, the Minnesota Court of Appeals concluded that it could not find that the presence of alcohol would always constitute exigent circumstances jutifying a warrantless blood draw and found that it would apply a totality of the circumstances approach to determine whether a warrant could be obtained before the test results would be compromised. The evidence that seemed to me to be the most damaging to the state was the arresting officer's own testimony that he was not concerned about the dissipation of alcohol from Shriner's blood.
The court's holding seems to be correct to me. I am generally wary of courts creating per se rules, and Shriner seems like it presents a classic case where a per se rule would have resulted in an outcome that went against common sense.